The Covid-19 pandemic has been a sobering reminder that association bodies need to shed their inflexibility and fear of change, in order to better provide for their community members.
Speaking at the PCMA Convening Leaders forum last week, Martin Sirk, international advisor at Global Association Hubs Partnership, expressed that the pandemic āexposed the rigidity of the association modelā.
He elaborated: āCovid-19 exposed a lot: governance, inflexibility, and the rigid and conservative systems (in associations). Itās very difficult to have any experimentation.ā
Another āweaknessā that was revealed is the lack of a ātrue presence around the worldā for associations with a global scope, pointed out Tommy Goodwin, CEO, Miller Wenhold Association Management.
Goodwin stated that because of this lack of regional or local influence, many associations have been āunable to mitigate risks around the world and unable to capitalise on opportunitiesā.
āYou would need a presence on the ground in strategic markets and various regions. Have regional managing directors in different parts of the world to sense what is happening and create benefits for members. You could even empower local chapters or volunteers to be your voice around the world ā youād want to make sure (your message) from Singapore is a scream, not a whisper, by the time it reaches Washington DC,ā he explained.
This should serve as a wake-up call for associations to step up and become the true movers and shakers that some communities need during the global crisis.
Goodwin said: āAssociations can help bridge the gaps that have been left behind by many governments and private corporations.ā He further suggested that the industry could scale back its operations to a regional and local level.
Meanwhile, Sirk asserted that the existing āspecialist monopolyā model should be dissolved, allowing for more complex and new meeting solutions, as well as partnerships.
Particularly in the Asia Pacific, the use of digital and social platforms can significantly improve the standing and effectiveness of associations, especially among the younger generation.
Shirlena Soh, president, Association of Biomedical Laboratory Professionals Singapore, shared: āThe use of digital and social media platforms is very minimal. Most associations are not as professionally run like those in the US or Europe. Digital is very important to engage the younger population who can rejuvenate the association.ā